Tag Archive | "Than"

Do iPhone Users Spend More Online Than Android Users?

Posted by MartyMeany

Apple has just launched their latest flagship phones to market and later this year they’ll release their uber-flagship: the iPhone X. The iPhone X is the most expensive iPhone yet, at a cool $ 999. With so many other smartphones on the market offering similar functionality, it begs the question: Do iPhone users simply spend more money than everyone else?

At Wolfgang Digital, we love a bit of data, so we’ve trawled through a massive dataset of 31 million iPhone and Android sessions to finally answer this question. Of course, we’ve got some actionable nuggets of digital marketing strategy at the end, too!

Why am I asking this question?

Way back when, before joining the online marketing world, I sold mobile phones. I couldn’t get my head around why people bought iPhones. They’re more expensive than their Android counterparts, which usually offer the same, if not increased, functionality (though you could argue the latter is subjective).

When I moved into the e-commerce department of the same phone retailer, my team would regularly grab a coffee and share little nuggets of interesting e-commerce trends we’d found. My personal favorite was a tale about Apple users spending more than desktop users. The story I read talked about how a hotel raised prices for people booking while using an Apple device. Even with the increased prices, conversion rates didn’t budge as the hotel raked in extra cash.

I’ve always said this story was anecdotal because I simply never saw the data to back it up. Still, it fascinated me.

Finding an answer

Fast forward a few years and I’m sitting in Wolfgang Digital behind the huge dataset that powered our 2017 E-Commerce Benchmark KPI Study. It occurred to me that this data could answer some of the great online questions I’d heard over the years. What better place to start than that tale of Apple users spending more money online than others?

The online world has changed a little since I first asked myself this question, so let’s take a fresh 2017 approach.

Do iPhone users spend more than Android users?

When this hypothesis first appeared, people were comparing Mac desktop users and PC desktop users, but the game has changed since then. To give the hypothesis a fresh 2017 look, we’re going to ask whether iPhone users spend more than Android users. Looking through the 31 million sessions on both iOS and Android operating systems, then filtering the data by mobile, it didn’t take long to find the the answer to this question that had followed me around for years. The results were astonishing:

On average, Android users spend $ 11.54 per transaction. iPhone users, on the other hand, spend a whopping $ 32.94 per transaction. That means iPhone users will spend almost three times as much as Android users when visiting an e-commerce site.

Slightly smug that I’ve finally answered my question, how do we turn this from being an interesting nugget of information to an actionable insight?

What does this mean for digital marketers?

As soon as you read about iPhone users spending three times more than Android users, I’m sure you started thinking about targeting users specifically based on their operating system. If iOS users are spending more money than their Android counterparts, doesn’t it make sense to shift your spend and targeting towards iOS users?

You’re right. In both Facebook and AdWords, you can use this information to your advantage.

Targeting operating systems within Facebook

Of the “big two” ad platforms, Facebook offers the most direct form of operating system targeting. When creating your ads, Facebook’s Ad Manager will give you the option to target “All Mobile Devices,” “iOS Devices Only,” or “Android Devices Only.” These options mean you can target those high average order value-generating iPhone users.

Targeting operating systems within AdWords

AdWords will allow you to target operating systems for both Display Campaigns and Video Campaigns. When it comes to Search, you can’t target a specific operating system. You can, however, create an OS-based audience using Google Analytics. Once this audience is built, you can remarket to an iOS audience with “iPhone”-oriented ad texts. Speaking at Wolfgang Essentials this year, Wil Reynolds showed clips of people talking through their decision to click in SERPs. It’s incredible to see people skipping over year-old content before clicking an article that mentions “iPhone.” Why? Because that user has an iPhone. That’s the power of relevancy.

You’ll also be able to optimize and personalize your bids in Search, safe in the knowledge that iPhone users are more likely to spend big than Android users.

There you have it. Don’t let those mad stories you hear pass you by. You might just learn something!

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New Site Crawl: Rebuilt to Find More Issues on More Pages, Faster Than Ever!

Posted by Dr-Pete

First, the good news — as of today, all Moz Pro customers have access to the new version of Site Crawl, our entirely rebuilt deep site crawler and technical SEO auditing platform. The bad news? There isn’t any. It’s bigger, better, faster, and you won’t pay an extra dime for it.

A moment of humility, though — if you’ve used our existing site crawl, you know it hasn’t always lived up to your expectations. Truth is, it hasn’t lived up to ours, either. Over a year ago, we set out to rebuild the back end crawler, but we realized quickly that what we wanted was an entirely re-imagined crawler, front and back, with the best features we could offer. Today, we launch the first version of that new crawler.

Code name: Aardwolf

The back end is entirely new. Our completely rebuilt “Aardwolf” engine crawls twice as fast, while digging much deeper. For larger accounts, it can support up to ten parallel crawlers, for actual speeds of up to 20X the old crawler. Aardwolf also fully supports SNI sites (including Cloudflare), correcting a major shortcoming of our old crawler.

View/search *all* URLs

One major limitation of our old crawler is that you could only see pages with known issues. Click on “All Crawled Pages” in the new crawler, and you’ll be brought to a list of every URL we crawled on your site during the last crawl cycle:

You can sort this list by status code, total issues, Page Authority (PA), or crawl depth. You can also filter by URL, status codes, or whether or not the page has known issues. For example, let’s say I just wanted to see all of the pages crawled for Moz.com in the “/blog” directory…

I just click the [+], select “URL,” enter “/blog,” and I’m on my way.

Do you prefer to slice and dice the data on your own? You can export your entire crawl to CSV, with additional data including per-page fetch times and redirect targets.

Recrawl your site immediately

Sometimes, you just can’t wait a week for a new crawl. Maybe you relaunched your site or made major changes, and you have to know quickly if those changes are working. No problem, just click “Recrawl my site” from the top of any page in the Site Crawl section, and you’ll be on your way…

Starting at our Medium tier, you’ll get 10 recrawls per month, in addition to your automatic weekly crawls. When the stakes are high or you’re under tight deadlines for client reviews, we understand that waiting just isn’t an option. Recrawl allows you to verify that your fixes were successful and refresh your crawl report.

Ignore individual issues

As many customers have reminded us over the years, technical SEO is not a one-sized-fits-all task, and what’s critical for one site is barely a nuisance for another. For example, let’s say I don’t care about a handful of overly dynamic URLs (for many sites, it’s a minor issue). With the new Site Crawl, I can just select those issues and then “Ignore” them (see the green arrow for location):

If you make a mistake, no worries — you can manage and restore ignored issues. We’ll also keep tracking any new issues that pop up over time. Just because you don’t care about something today doesn’t mean you won’t need to know about it a month from now.

Fix duplicate content

Under “Content Issues,” we’ve launched an entirely new duplicate content detection engine and a better, cleaner UI for navigating that content. Duplicate content is now automatically clustered, and we do our best to consistently detect the “parent” page. Here’s a sample from Moz.com:

You can view duplicates by the total number of affected pages, PA, and crawl depth, and you can filter by URL. Click on the arrow (far-right column) for all of the pages in the cluster (shown in the screenshot). Click anywhere in the current table row to get a full profile, including the source page we found that link on.

Prioritize quickly & tactically

Prioritizing technical SEO problems requires deep knowledge of a site. In the past, in the interest of simplicity, I fear that we’ve misled some of you. We attempted to give every issue a set priority (high, medium, or low), when the difficult reality is that what’s a major problem on one site may be deliberate and useful on another.

With the new Site Crawl, we decided to categorize crawl issues tactically, using five buckets:

  • Critical Crawler Issues
  • Crawler Warnings
  • Redirect Issues
  • Metadata Issues
  • Content Issues

Hopefully, you can already guess what some of these contain. Critical Crawler Issues still reflect issues that matter first to most sites, such as 5XX errors and redirects to 404s. Crawler Warnings represent issues that might be very important for some sites, but require more context, such as meta NOINDEX.

Prioritization often depends on scope, too. All else being equal, one 500 error may be more important than one duplicate page, but 10,000 duplicate pages is a different matter. Go to the bottom of the Site Crawl Overview Page, and we’ve attempted to balance priority and scope to target your top three issues to fix:

Moving forward, we’re going to be launching more intelligent prioritization, including grouping issues by folder and adding data visualization of your known issues. Prioritization is a difficult task and one we haven’t helped you do as well as we could. We’re going to do our best to change that.

Dive in & tell us what you think!

All existing customers should have access to the new Site Crawl as of earlier this morning. Even better, we’ve been crawling existing campaigns with the Aardwolf engine for a couple of weeks, so you’ll have history available from day one! Stay tuned for a blog post tomorrow on effectively prioritizing Site Crawl issues, and be sure to register for the upcoming webinar.

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SMX Advanced is almost sold out! Less than 100 tickets left.

SMX Advanced is one week. This time next week, your peers (and competitors) will be in Seattle getting actionable SEO and SEM tactics and having conversations with the marketers making the biggest impact in the search world. We’ll be covering the SEO and SEM topics relevant today: from mobile SEO…

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MozBar Revived! How We Rebuilt MozBar to be More Robust Than Ever—Plus a Brand-New Feature

Posted by Roxana_Nelson

2016 was quite a year for MozBar…

I’m so pleased to announce that we’ve completely rebuilt the foundation for MozBar, making it more robust and reliable, and we’ve launched a new MozBar Premium feature: On-Page Content Suggestions!

Download MozBar for Chrome

But before we get into the fun, new feature stuff, I want to be completely transparent about some of the challenges we faced early last year:

We’re listening and taking it all to heart. Thank you for having our back with your excellent feedback!

So what the heck exactly happened in the first half of 2016?

We had a roadmap of features that we wanted to release in 2016, but soon realized MozBar hadn’t been built to support the growth we had planned for it going forward. We wanted to continue to innovate but it just wasn’t scalable.

For the longest time, all MozBar projects were shipped by a small, self-contained team consisting of a product manager (yours truly), a designer, and our contract developer. In May, our rockstar contract developer left to pursue his own projects. We had big dreams for MozBar but now found ourselves without a developer, without a process, and with big scalability issues on the horizon.

In the midst of all this, we found a major vulnerability to our API via MozBar. It was putting too much pressure on our servers and negatively affecting data for our users. To address this, we urgently needed to add in security layers, such as requiring a login and a CAPTCHA. This ended up being a really complicated process. As we attempted to roll out fixes, one new fix seemed to inevitably break something else. It was no fault of anyone person, just a symptom of the mounting technical debt we had accrued. Avid MozBar users quickly noticed the problems we were having. It was making their jobs harder — the antithesis of what MozBar was created for. We could not let this go on.

We knew what we needed to do.

We created a dedicated MozBar team to work all-hands-on-deck to rebuild MozBar from the ground up to make it fast, reliable, and ready to launch a new feature by the end of the year. And I’m happy to say, we did it! We made stabilizing MozBar our number-one priority and were able to build a new backend service that would resolve the data issues that plagued MozBar throughout all of summer 2016. This brand-new foundation would also give us a solid ground to launch innovative new features in a smart, sustainable way. After we stabilized MozBar, our first order of business was to revamp the Page Optimization feature of MozBar Premium (exclusive to Moz Pro customers) and add On-Page Content Suggestions!

How can On-Page Content Suggestions help you?

Content Suggestions helps you easily find ideas for the page you are optimizing to help build your topical authority. These suggestions are topics that are influencing the SERP for the keyword you’re optimizing for. Use these content suggestions to beef up any thin content on your page and become the expert on your topic. As a bonus, you can even use content suggestions as a keyword list to help round out keywords you’re already researching.

How does it work? We take the top results for the keyword you’re optimizing for, extract the most popular topics, then order them by frequency. Sound familiar? This feature also lives in Moz Pro.

The benefit of having this feature in MozBar as well is that you now have the flexibility to analyze any page and keyword combination, not just ones you are tracking in your campaigns. And it’s super easy to use! Just enter a keyword you would like to optimize a page for, hit enter, and all of your page optimization factors and on-page content suggestions are surfaced in one view:

Be sure to check out an upcoming MozBar tutorial post from Brian Childs, Moz’s very own product trainer, and sign up for the first-ever MozBar webinar he’ll be hosting next week. Also keep an eye out for Rand’s deep-dive post on how to get the biggest bang for your buck with On-Page Content Suggestions. You will not want to miss these.

I am so incredibly proud of the MozBar team and all of the contributions they’ve made to the toolbar in the past year. We know we still have room to improve and grow; believe me, there’s a long list of things to do. There’s also a long list of exciting new features that we have planned for you, too!

Ready to check it out?

And most importantly, we are so appreciative of all of you who’ve stuck with us, have been vocal about issues as they pop up, and worked directly with us to troubleshoot issues that you’ve encountered. If it weren’t for your feedback, support, and patience, we’d be in the dark, so thank you.

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Why Your Voice Matters More than Ever This Year

woman and man working and talking - copyblogger

2016, right?

Such a strange, difficult year. Lots of us are thinking about the artists we lost — poets, musicians, cultural icons.

Of course, famous people die every year — but this one had a nasty streak. Bowie, Prince, Ali, Cohen, Fisher, and so many more. People who went far beyond entertaining us.

We never met them, but they changed everything.

Because they found the courage to speak, and sing, and cry out with real voices. Screwed up, weird, flawed, masterful. Sometimes broken, sometimes triumphant, but real.

Truth and courage

Every year, the first week of January inspires us to look ahead, to resolve to be better.

This year is not normal.

This year, it’s not “lose five pounds (again)” or “finally get the junk drawer organized.”

This year, our challenge is to be honest enough and brave enough to change the world.

You have something to say — whether it’s with your blog, with a podcast, with video, with your art or your music. You have something to contribute that no one else can.

We need that now.

You have a voice that’s irreplaceable. It can’t be turned into a clever algorithm. It can’t be duplicated and it can’t be churned out for a penny a word.

We need that now.

It’s about you

As we progress (if progress is the right word), one thing is clear: any time communication can be automated, it will be.

Sports scores, statistics, facts and figures. Anything that can be charted and analyzed by a machine can be turned into some form of automated content.

You will never find success writing like a machine. If your work can be done by a bot, it will be.

Individual, fresh, genuine human voices have always been what worked. They connect us with one another. They present ideas in ways we haven’t thought about before. They make us laugh and they make us angry, and they make us think.

We don’t need any more cynical, mass-produced content.

In 2017, as automation takes over so much routine communication, real human voices become more important, not less.

It’s not about you

If you run a business, you’re changing the world.

If you write content for a business, you’re changing the world.

Not by selling more “best-of-breed solutions for disruptive excellence.”

But by making art that builds the connections between human beings who want things and human beings who make things.

I know there are plenty of people who will think I’m nuts for saying that the content we craft for our businesses can be art.

I don’t care.

Business matters. Making a living matters. Supporting your family matters. And I am never going to tell you to be complacent about those things.

But don’t do it at the expense of your human voice. It doesn’t work, and it’s not what the world needs from you. Sing the song only you can sing.

2017 needs you

We need people who are not afraid of hard work and big ideas.

We need people who understand that the web is made of real human beings, with problems and feelings and complicated lives.

We need people who will resist the epidemic of unkindness.

If you ever thought that this abstract thing called “content” was more important than connection to your audience, you were misreading the situation — badly. Content works because it builds a connection to real people.

2017 needs your voice — your unique expression and humanity.

Of all the “back to basics” advice we give, this one (in my excruciatingly humble opinion) is the most important.

Be strategic, for sure. But don’t let that erase or diminish your genuine and courageous human voice.

The post Why Your Voice Matters More than Ever This Year appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Most SEOs Are No Better than a Coin-Flip at Predicting Which Page Will Rank Better. Can You?

Posted by willcritchlow

We want to be able to answer questions about why one page outranks another.

“What would we have to do to outrank that site?”

“Why is our competitor outranking us on this search?”

These kind of questions — from bosses, from clients, and from prospective clients — are a standard part of day-to-day life for many SEOs. I know I’ve been asked both in the last week.

It’s relatively easy to figure out ways that a page can be made more relevant and compelling for a given search, and it’s straightforward to think of ways the page or site could be more authoritative (even if it’s less straight-forward to get it done). But will those changes or that extra link cause an actual reordering of a specific ranking? That’s a very hard question to answer with a high degree of certainty.

When we asked a few hundred people to pick which of two pages would rank better for a range of keywords, the average accuracy on UK SERPs was 46%. That’s worse than you’d get if you just flipped a coin! This chart shows the performance by keyword. It’s pretty abysmal:

It’s getting harder to unpick all the ranking factors

I’ve participated in each iteration of Moz’s ranking factors survey since its inception in 2009. At one of our recent conferences (the last time I was in San Diego for SearchLove) I talked about how I used to enjoy it and feel like I could add real value by taking the survey, but how that’s changed over the years as the complexity has increased.

While I remain confident when building strategies to increase overall organic visibility, traffic, and revenue, I’m less sure than ever which individual ranking factors will outweigh which others in a specific case.

The strategic approach looks at whole sites and groups of keywords

My approach is generally to zoom out and build business cases on assumptions about portfolios of rankings, but it’s been on my mind recently as I think about the ways machine learning should make Google rankings ever more of a black box, and cause the ranking factors to vary more and more between niches.

In general, “why does this page rank?” is the same as “which of these two pages will rank better?”

I’ve been teaching myself about deep neural networks using TensorFlow and Keras — an area I’m pretty sure I’d have ended up studying and working in if I’d gone to college 5 years later. As I did so, I started thinking about how you would model a SERP (which is a set of high-dimensional non-linear relationships). I realized that the litmus test of understanding ranking factors — and thus being able to answer “why does that page outrank us?” — boils down to being able to answer a simpler question:

Given two pages, can you figure out which one will outrank the other for a given query?

If you can answer that in the general case, then you know why one page outranks another, and vice-versa.

It turns out that people are terrible at answering this question.

I thought that answering this with greater accuracy than a coin flip was going to be a pretty low bar. As you saw from the sneak peak of my results above, that turned out not to be the case. Reckon you can do better? Skip ahead to take the test and find out.

(In fact, if you could find a way to test this effectively, I wonder if it would make a good qualifying question for the next moz ranking factors survey. Should you only listen only to the opinion of those experts who are capable of answering with reasonable accuracy? Note that my test that follows isn’t at all rigorous because you can cheat by Googling the keywords — it’s just for entertainment purposes).

Take the test and see how well you can answer

With my curiosity piqued, I put together a simple test, thinking it would be interesting to see how good expert SEOs actually are at this, as well as to see how well laypeople do.

I’ve included a bit more about the methodology and some early results below, but if you’d like to skip ahead and test yourself you can go ahead here.

Note that to simplify the adversarial side, I’m going to let you rely on all of Google’s spam filtering — you can trust that every URL ranks in the top 10 for its example keyword — so you’re choosing an ordering of two pages that do rank for the query rather than two pages from potentially any domain on the Internet.

I haven’t designed this to be uncheatable — you can obviously cheat by Googling the keywords — but as my old teachers used to say: “If you do, you’ll only be cheating yourself.”

Unfortunately, Google Forms seems to have removed the option to be emailed your own answers outside of an apps domain, so if you want to know how you did, note down your answers as you go along and compare them to the correct answers (which are linked from the final page of the test).

You can try your hand with just one keyword or keep going, trying anywhere up to 10 keywords (each with a pair of pages to put in order). Note that you don’t need to do all of them; you can submit after any number.

You can take the survey either for the US (google.com) or UK (google.co.uk). All results are considering only the “blue links” results — i.e. links to web pages — rather than universal search results / one-boxes etc.

Take the test!

What do the early responses show?

Before publishing this post, we sent it out to the @distilled and @moz networks. At the time of writing, almost 300 people have taken the test, and there are already some interesting results:

It seems as though the US questions are slightly easier

The UK test appears to be a little harder (judging both by the accuracy of laypeople, and with a subjective eye). And while accuracy generally increases with experience in both the UK and the US, the vast majority of UK respondents performed worse than a coin flip:

Some easy questions might skew the data in the US

Digging into the data, there are a few of the US questions that are absolute no-brainers (e.g. there’s a question about the keyword [mortgage calculator] in the US that 84% of respondents get right regardless of their experience). In comparison, the easiest one in the UK was also a mortgage-related query ([mortgage comparisons]) but only 2/3 of people got that right (67%).

Compare the UK results by keyword…

…To the same chart for the US keywords:

So, even though the overall accuracy was a little above 50% in the US (around 56% or roughly 5/9), I’m not actually convinced that US SERPs are generally easier to understand. I think there are a lot of US SERPs where human accuracy is in the 40% range.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is on display

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a well-studied psychological phenomenon whereby people “fail to adequately assess their level of competence,” typically feeling unsure in areas where they are actually strong (impostor syndrome) and overconfident in areas where they are weak. Alongside the raw predictions, I asked respondents to give their confidence in their rankings for each URL pair on a scale from 1 (“Essentially a guess, but I’ve picked the one I think”) to 5 (“I’m sure my chosen page should rank better”).

The effect was most pronounced on the UK SERPs — where respondents answering that they were sure or fairly sure (4–5) were almost as likely to be wrong as those guessing (1) — and almost four percentage points worse than those who said they were unsure (2–3):

Is Google getting some of these wrong?

The question I asked SEOs was “which page do you think ranks better?”, not “which page is a better result?”, so in general, most of the results say very little about whether Google is picking the right result in terms of user satisfaction. I did, however, ask people to share the survey with their non-SEO friends and ask them to answer the latter question.

If I had a large enough sample-size, you might expect to see some correlation here — but remember that these were a diverse array of queries and the average respondent might well not be in the target market, so it’s perfectly possible that Google knows what a good result looks like better than they do.

Having said that, in my own opinion, there are one or two of these results that are clearly wrong in UX terms, and it might be interesting to analyze why the “wrong” page is ranking better. Maybe that’ll be a topic for a follow-up post. If you want to dig into it, there’s enough data in both the post above and the answers given at the end of the survey to find the ones I mean (I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t tried it out yet). Let me know if you dive into the ranking factors and come up with any theories.

There is hope for our ability to fight machine learning with machine learning

One of the disappointments of putting together this test was that by the time I’d made the Google Form I knew too many of the answer to be able to test myself fairly. But I was comforted by the fact that I could do the next best thing — I could test my neural network (well, my model, refactored by our R&D team and trained on data they gathered, which we flippantly called Deeprank).

I think this is fair; the instructions did say “use whatever tools you like to assess the sites, but please don’t skew the results by performing the queries on Google yourself.” The neural network wasn’t trained on these results, so I think that’s within the rules. I ran it on the UK questions because it was trained on google.co.uk SERPs, and it did better than a coin flip:

So maybe there is hope that smarter tools could help us continue to answer questions like “why is our competitor outranking us on this search?”, even as Google’s black box gets ever more complex and impenetrable.

If you want to hear more about these results as I gather more data and get updates on Deeprank when it’s ready for prime-time, be sure to add your email address when you:

Take the test (or just drop me your email here)

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For FIFA Women’s World Cup, Google Gives Women Less Space Than Men

For the men’s tournament, Google was quick with special boxes to highlight results. For the women’s tournament, the boxes are often missing.

The post For FIFA Women’s World Cup, Google Gives Women Less Space Than Men appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Does Audio Create Authority Faster Than Text?


Recent research shows that the human brain can detect confidence in your voice in 0.2 seconds — faster than the blink of an eye. And it’s confidence that influences the listener to give you attention and perceive authority.

It’s an interesting finding, especially with the mainstream emergence of podcasting. We’ve already discussed how audio is smart foundational content that can be repurposed into text, slides, and infographics. But perhaps audio is simply the smartest content of all, standing alone?

Not everyone writes with authority. But anyone can speak with authority, assuming you know your stuff and apply some basic tactics that let your confidence shine.

In this 19-minute episode of New Rainmaker with Brian Clark, Brian and Robert Bruce discuss:

  • The maddening path to mastery and confidence
  • How to learn any topic at a deeper level
  • Four quick tips for more confident speaking

Click Here to Listen to

New Rainmaker with Brian Clark on iTunes

Click Here to Listen on Rainmaker.FM

About the author


Rainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing and sales podcast network. Get on-demand business advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.

The post Does Audio Create Authority Faster Than Text? appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Why SEOs Need to Care About Correlation as Much (or More) than Causation

Posted by randfish

correlation does not equal causation

Today I’m going to make a crazy claim—that in modern SEO, there are times, situations, and types of analyses where correlation is actually MORE interesting and useful than causality. I know that sounds insane, but stick with me until the end and at least give the argument a chance. And for those of you who like visuals, our friend AJ Ghergich and his intrepid team of designers created some nifty graphics to accompany the piece.

Once upon a time, SEO professionals had a reasonable sense of many (or perhaps even most) of the inputs into the search engine’s ranking systems. We leveraged our knowledge of how Google interpreted various modifications to keywords, links, content, and technical aspects to hammer on the signals that produced results.

But today, there can be little argument—Google’s ranking algorithm has become so incredibly complex, nuanced, powerful, and full-featured, that modern SEOs have all but given up on hammering away at individual signals. Instead, we’re becoming more complete marketers, with greater influence on all of the elements of our organizations’ online presence.

Web marketers operate in a world where Google:

  • Uses machine learning to identify editorial endorsements vs. spam (e.g. Penguin)
  • Measures and rewards engagement (e.g. pogo-sticking)
  • Rewards signals that correlate with brands (and attempts to remove/punish non-brand entities)
  • Applies thousands of immensely powerful and surprisingly accurate ways to analyze content (e.g. Hummingbird)
  • Punishes sites that produce mediocre content (intentionally or accidentally) even if the site has good content, too (e.g. Panda)
  • Rapidly recognizes and accounts for patterns of queries and clicks as rank boosting signals (e.g. this recent test)
  • Makes 600+ algorithmic updates each year, the vast majority of which are neither announced nor known by the marketing/SEO community

how Google works

Given this frenetic ecosystem, the best path forward isn’t to exclusively build to the signals that are recognized and accepted as having a direct impact on rankings (keyword-matching, links, etc). Those who’ve previously pursued such a strategy have mostly failed to deliver on long-term results. Many have found their sites in serious trouble due to penalization, more future-focused competitors, and/or a devaluing of their tactics.

Instead, successful marketers have been engaging in the tactics that Google’s own algorithms are chasing—popularity, relevance, trust, and a great overall experience for visitors. Very frequently, that means looking at correlation rather than causation.

[Via Moz's 2013 Ranking Factors - the new 2015 version is coming this summer!]

We’ll engage in a thought experiment to help highlight the issue:

Let’s say you discover, as a signal of quality, Google directly measures the time a given searcher spends on a page visited from the SERPs. Sites with pages searchers spend more time on get a rankings boost, while those with quick abandonment find their pages falling in the rankings. You decide to press your advantage with this knowledge by using some clever hacks to keep visitors on your page longer and to make clicking the back button more difficult. Sure, it may suck for some visitors, but those are the ones you would have lost anyway (and they would have hurt your rankings!), so you figure they’re not worth worrying about. You’ve identified a metric that directly impacts Google’s algorithm, and you’re going to make the most of it.

Meanwhile, your competitor (who has no idea about the algorithmic impact of this factor) has been working on a new design that makes their website content easier, faster, and more pleasurable to consume. When the new design launches, they initially see a fall in rankings, and don’t understand why. But you’re pretty sure you know what’s happened. Google’s use of the time-on-site metric is hurting them because visitors are now getting the information they want from your competitor’s new design faster than before, and thus, they’re leaving more quickly, hurting the site’s rankings. You cackle with delight as your fortune swells.

But what happens long term? Google’s quality testers see diminished happiness among searchers. They rework their algorithms to reward sites that successfully deliver great experiences more quickly. At the same time, competitors gain more links, amplification, social sharing, and word of mouth because real users are deriving more positive experiences from their site than yours. You found an algorithmic loophole and exploited it briefly, but by playing the “where’s Google weak?” game rather than the “where’s Google going?” game, you’ve ultimately lost.

Over the last decade, in case after case of marketers optimizing for the causal elements of Google’s algorithm, this pattern of short-term gain leading to long-term loss continually occurs. That’s why, today, I suggest marketers think about what correlates with rankings as much as what actually causes them.

If many high-ranking sites in your field are offering mobile apps for Android and iOS, you may be tempted to think there’s no point to considering an app-strategy just for SEO because, obviously, having an app doesn’t make Google rank your site any higher. But what if those mobile apps are leading to more press coverage for those competitors, and more links to their site, and more direct visits to their webpages from those apps, and more search queries that include their brand names, and a hundred other things that Google maybe IS counting directly in their algorithm?

And, if many high ranking sites in your field engage in TV ads, you may be tempted to think that it’s useless to investigate TV as a channel because there’s no way Google would reward advertising as a signal for SEO. But what if those TV ads drive searches and clicks, which could lead directly to rankings? What if those TV ads create brand-biasing behaviors through psychological nudges that lead to greater recognition and a higher likelihood of searchers click on, link to, share, talk about, write about, buy from, etc. your TV-advertising competitor?

Thousands of hard-to-identify, individual signals, mashed together through machine learning, are most likely directly responsible for your competitor’s website outranking yours on a particular search query. But even if you had a list of the potential inputs and the mathematical formulas Google’s process considers most valuable for that query’s ranking evaluation, you’d be little closer to competently beating them. You may feel smugly satisfied that your own SEO knowledge exceeded that of your competitor, or of their SEO consultants, but smug satisfaction does not raise rankings. In fact, I think some of the SEO field’s historic obsession with knowing precisely how Google works and which signals matter is, at times, costing us a broader, deeper understanding of big-picture marketing*.

Time and again, I’ve seen SEO professionals whom I admire, respect, and find to be brilliant analysts of Google’s algorithms lose out to less-hyper-SEO-aware marketers who combine that big picture knowledge with more-basic/fundamental SEO tactics. While I certainly wouldn’t advise anyone to learn less about their field nor give up their investigation of Google’s inner workings, I am and will continue to strongly advise marketers of all specialties to think about all the elements that might have a second-order or purely correlated effect on Google’s rankings, rather than just concentrate on what we know to be directly causal.


* No one’s guiltier than I am of obsessing over discovering and sharing Google’s operations. And I’ll probably keep being that way because that’s how obsession works. But, I’m trying to recognize that this obsession isn’t necessarily connected to being the most successful marketer or SEO I can be.

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Why Creating Your First Blockbuster Online Product Is Easier Than You Think

chocolate cupcakes with white frosting and rainbow sprinkles

Imagine you’ve just launched your first product.

It’s a short little course, just a few weeks long, that teaches the “DIY” version of the topics you help people with every day. You built it once, delivered it online, and now it works for you while you’re off doing other activities you love.

This online course has been a transformative force in your life.

You’ve found financial freedom, because you’re no longer constrained by the economics of trading time for money. And you’ve multiplied your impact, making the world a better place for dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people.

It’s a pretty picture, isn’t it?

But you and I both know it isn’t so easy to achieve.

In reality, most people with big dreams of product creation end up spending months, or even years, investing time and money that they can’t afford to lose into a project that will probably never see the light of day.

It’s a sad reality, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Let your audience direct your product development …

What the creators of most blockbuster products have figured out is how to completely avoid that situation by allowing their audiences to guide product development.

This is one of the areas where Copyblogger has always excelled. They first discussed the concept of a minimum viable audience back in 2012:

Build an audience through content marketing. Let them tell you what they want. Build products and offer services based on their desires and needs. Prosper.

By putting the audience first and letting them tell you what you should create, you don’t have to wonder what they want or make assumptions that lead you in the wrong direction.

You begin by listening to your audience.

Let go of assumptions and pay careful attention to what your audience says, in their own words.

There are a few ways to do this:

  1. Study your blog posts that get shared the most and those with the largest number of comments.
  2. Notice the email and newsletter subjects that your audience responds to with the highest levels of urgency and emotion.
  3. When your audience emails you “just because,” collect the questions they ask and the problems they mention.

As you interact with your audience, take notes about the most common problems and questions.

But what if you don’t have an audience?

The good news is that you can listen the same way even if you don’t have a large audience yet, or even any audience at all.

By engaging with your future audience where they hang out online, you can still gather the same type of data.

Copyblogger describes this as “being an integral member of your own market.”

For example, you can listen in on your target audience wherever they happen to be. By looking at comments that they leave on blog posts and forums around the web, you will start to see repeatedly asked questions.

You can also eavesdrop on and join in conversations on social media. By finding interest groups on LinkedIn or Facebook and taking part in the discussion, you can explore the topics discussed the most often, or you can observe the interactions between a market leader and his Twitter followers.

Now you know how to begin to engage an audience in your product development.

Moving forward from there, you can gather even more in-depth data whether or not you have an audience.

One way to do this is to create a simple survey, asking the respondents about their biggest challenge.

Or, to go even deeper, you can conduct informational interviews with either members of your audience or the people who responded to your survey.

These interviews can be conducted over the phone or by video chat. During the interviews, you can ask specific questions about a certain topic or problem.

These methods of delving into the problem language of your intended audience will pay off in an overflowing stack of raw data.

But before that data is really worth something, you have to sort it and figure out what it all means.

By sifting through the data, you are likely to uncover patterns that will show you the problems you can potentially solve for your audience.

For example, a writing coach might gather data from her audience of aspiring writers and observe that half of the respondents have questions about Scrivener, and that another 10 percent have asked about what type of writing software they should use.

The writing coach would then see a pattern as she sorted through her data: Her audience wants to use time-saving software, and teaching a course on Scrivener might be a way for her to solve their problem.

Once you get an idea of what your audience might be willing and eager to pay for, you still have a crucial step before you can start creating that product: validation!

What’s the best way to validate that your audience will buy your product?

Answer: sell a pilot version of the product.

How to rapidly assemble and deploy your pilot offer

Much like listening to your audience to determine what you will offer them, you will also involve them in creating the offer.

To assemble your pilot offer, follow this structure:

  1. Collect information. This includes the steps that we have covered so far.
  2. Reach out to your target audience. Present your offer as a response to their demand — a solution to the problems they’ve discussed. Describe the offer, and include the story of how they brought your product into existence.
  3. Listen to their answers. Are they interested in the product now that it exists? Are they not really responding? If this is the case, go back to your research to see what should be changed or improved.
  4. Tell them your plan. Explain the motivation behind your actions by saying, “You asked me to do this, so I’m doing it.” Give them a preview. Let them know roughly what material will be covered, the structure of the course, and other relevant details. This step is important, because you don’t want to surprise your audience later with, “Hey, here’s this thing I never told you about. You should buy it!”
  5. Open a brief registration window. Once you start accepting new customers, send follow-up emails, with escalating urgency as you get closer to the date and time that the cart will close. Answer any questions that your audience asks and give them any additional information they might need. Then, close enrollment.
  6. Deliver the course!

The truth is: this process is a lot of hard work up front, but it’s totally worth it when your pilot product presents you with a ticket to success.

Getting your first cohort of customers

So, let’s imagine again:

  • You’ve become an integral member of your market.
  • You listened to your audience, paying attention to their exact words.
  • You created a product that your audience was practically begging you to build.

And, you just successfully sold your first product.

Imagine it working for you in the background, fueling and funding the life you want to lead. Imagine the impact you have achieved, making the world a better place.

Now, stop imagining.

Your audience is anxiously waiting for you to co-create that blockbuster product with them. So do your market research to see what they want.

Then reach out to them, and sell that pilot offer — and if you need help, check out our free templates that you can use to breeze through the sales portion of this process.

From there, the rest will be history.

Now go make it happen!

And let us know over on LinkedIn how you plan to get started …

Flickr Creative Commons Image via sunshinecity.

About the Author: Danny Iny is the co-founder of Firepole Marketing and creator of the Course Builder’s Laboratory. For a limited time, he’s giving away a massive “Done For You” swipe kit of email templates that you can adapt to sell your own pilot course.

The post Why Creating Your First Blockbuster Online Product Is Easier Than You Think appeared first on Copyblogger.


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